Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Brilliant Girl

Recently I had the good fortune to take Communicative English classes for a group of 16 girls from a poor home. Most of them could hardly speak in English when they came and some of them who could speak English were scared of making mistakes. However with time, they picked up the nuts of bolts of Spoken English and managed to speak "a little" (their own words) English and that too without fear. It was a struggle to help them overcome their inhibitions and negativities; but they did emerge out of their coccoons. For the class farewell, they prepared a story line of a girl who is persecuted by everybody around her. But in my hands, the story acquired a slightly different colour- that of independence and self-reliance. Though quite long and of little higher standard for them, these girls did a good job on the final day, making me proud of them. I'm happy that such a small exercise improved their confidence by leaps and bounds! For you, my brilliant girls, THE BRILLIANT GIRL!

Scene 1 (Coordinator, The Principal, Merlin, Sania, Reshmi and the crowd)

(The scene is set in the auditorium of a reputed college in the city. There are several people seated on the dais. The principal, three students and a coordinator.)

Coordinator: Welcome dear teachers and students to this function felicitating a few of our brilliant students. We shall begin the function with a prayer song.

(A group of girls come and sing a devotional song.)

Coordinator: Thank you, girls, for the prayer song. Next we begin the official meeting. We are gathered here to announce an important landmark in the history of our college. According to the university, three of our students have secured very high marks in the first year exams. I cordially invite our Principal to say a few words about this achievement.

The Principal: Today is a happy day for our college. As you know, three of our students have achieved good results in the first year exam. I congratulate Merlin, Sania and Reshmi for scoring the highest marks in their subjects. But this is only the first year and we need consistent results until the final year. So I urge you to study well in the future as well. Congratulations and all the best for the future!

Coordinator: Next, I would like to invite the three students, Merlin, Sania and Reshmi for sharing their happiness with you.

Merlin: Respected Principal and teachers and my dear friends, first of all I would like to thank God for this blessing. The credit for this definitely goes to my teachers, family and friends who have always given their full support .I would like to thank the Principal, my teachers and friends on this occasion. Also, my mother who has worked hard to educate me.

(There is applause. A lot of people clap their hands while Sania and Reshmi do not move at all and mutter to each other)

Sania: Why does she have to be so good to all?
Reshmi: That's because she's no good at all.

Coordinator: Thank you Merlin for giving such a wonderful speech. Next I invite Sania, who is the daughter of Dr. Thomas, our PTA chairman to come and share the secrets of her success.

Sania: Dear Principal, Teachers and friends, I am happy to say that my hard work was not in vain. This high score is definitely a result of getting up so early for the tuitions. As you know it's difficult to study these days without tuitions. My parents have always given me the best tuition teachers in the city. I want to tell all of you to study hard and score high marks in the exams. Thank you. (There is hooting from the crowd, though some applause is also heard)

Coordinator: Thank you Sania. Next I invite Reshmi to come and give her speech.

Reshmi: Hello everybody, I want to say a few words about this victory. As most of you know, I studied abroad in Dubai during my school days (hooting from the crowd) and was exposed to learning methods quite unlike the methods in Kerala. It took some time for me to become friends with you all. The secret of my victory is my learning habit using the internet as a study tool. If you want to become a top-scorer, buy a computer and start learning using the internet. Thank you.

(The hooting is very loud.)

Coordinator: I offer my sincere thanks to the Principal, teachers and students. The meeting is concluded.

Scene 2 (The Principal, Reshmi, Sania, Peon and Gita)

Outside the Principal's office, Reshmi and Sania are waiting for the Principal to finish speaking to an office staff.

Reshmi: Why did you have to speak about your tuitions? That's why they hooted at us.
Sania: Oh your Dubai background was not that helpful either.

Principal: Check whether all applications are correct and signed by students. Then they are to be sealed with the college seal and with my signature seal. Also, some students can just submit the application because they have don't have to pay the fees. But you need to verify their backgrounds. Like Merlin for example, does not have to pay fees.

Office staff: Ok madam, I will check all the details.

Reshmi and Sania: Good morning, Madam.

The Principal: What is it girls?

Sania: Madam, we wanted to see you about something. Our parents were very happy that we had good scores in the exam. So they have sent cheques towards the PTA fund. Here is the cheque my father gave for 25000 rupees.

Reshmi: Madam, This is the cheque my mother sent for 30000 rupees.

The Principal: Tell your parents my sincere thanks for this gesture. We will utilise this for developing more facilities and for the education of poor girls.

Reshmi: Madam, is it true that Merlin does not pay fees?

The Principal: Oh you overheard my conversation with Gita. Yes, that's true. Her father passed away last year and her mother is ill.

Sania: Ill, madam? She's working in a textiles shop in the city. I have seen her once outside the college gate, waiting for Merlin. I know her because they stay very near to our house.

The Principal: Are you sure Sania, it's the same person? Because it was only last week, Merlin came and asked for exemption from fees because her mother had an accident.

Reshmi: Then, madam, she must have had her accident recently. But Merlin's not that poor.
The Principal: What are you saying Reshmi? Are you trying to mislead me?

Sania: Madam, we are sorry. But our parents will send more money next year. May we leave now?

The Principal: Wait. Gita, bring Merlin’s admission form.

Gita: (goes to a cupboard and takes out a sheet of paper) Yes madam, here it is. She had first rank in SSLC.

Gita: The Principal: No about her income.

Gita: Her father was in the government service. He died last year. Her mother works in a textile shop as a salesperson. Income is given as 5000 per month.

The Principal: Ok, girls, now you can go. You might be right. I need to check whether her story is true or not.

(The girls leave. Presses a button and peon comes)

The Principal: Ask Merlin to come and see me.

Scene 3
(Merlin, the Principal)

Merlin: (knocks at the door) Good Morning madam. Did you ask for me?

The Principal: Yes, Merlin. I wanted to know a few things about you. Last week, you came and requested for fee exemption. But on checking your admission form, it was found that your father was in the government service and that your mother is working in a textile shop; while what you told me was that your mother was ill.

Merlin: (shocked) Madam, it's true that my father was a government servant and that we will get pension. But we have not got pension, though it's a year after his death. Mother had an accident last month and we require a lot of money for her treatment.

The Principal: You can borrow from somebody and give it back when the pension comes. Where do you live, Merlin?

Merlin: We live in PTP Nagar near Sania's house.

The Principal: You can be exempted from fees only if you get a letter of recommendation from the PTA Chairman.

Merlin: Dr. Thomas? Sania's father? Yes, madam, I request him for a letter of recommendation.

The Principal: If you do not bring the letter tomorrow; you will not be able to write the exams.
Merlin: Yes, madam.

Scene 4

Merlin's home (Amma, Merlin)

Amma: Oh you are home? Renu wanted to see you. It's her birthday and she brought some payasam with her. It's on the table.

Merlin: yeah.

Amma: What happened Merlin? Yesterday you were so happy about your high marks. What happened to you?

Merlin: Nothing, Amma. Just feeling a little tired.

Amma: That's because you work hard at home and at college. Take rest and after that go and see Renu.

Merlin: I will drink the payasam later. I will wish Renu and come.

Scene 5

Renu's house (Renu, Merlin)

Merlin: (rings the bell)I hope she likes this present.

Renu: Come in, Merlin.

Merlin: (hugs Renu) Happy Birthday, Renu.

Renu: Thanks dear. I'm glad that you remembered. Why were you late today? I came to see you an hour ago.

Merlin: What to say, Renu? Something bad happened to me today. The Principal has asked me pay the examination fees because she thinks I'm not poor.

Renu: But you are not poor, Merlin.

Merlin: Exactly dear. I didn't want to worry Amma. So I went and asked the Principal for a fee exemption. She had agreed but later she asked for a letter of recommendation from Dr. Thomas as proof.

Renu: Dr. Thomas? You mean the doctor who's treating your Amma?

Merlin: I went to see him but it was Sania who answered the door. She said her father has gone for a conference in Delhi. I told her that I wanted a letter of recommendation and she said he won’t be back until next Friday.

Renu: She must be lying.

Merlin: Even I thought so.

Renu: What will you do now? You know that Ravi is saving money to marry us off. It's bad to be born a girl when you are a burden to your parents.

Merlin: I was thinking about going for work at Alappat.

Renu: What? You see Merlin, I am not intelligent like you but I think you should not stop your studies. What will happen to your dream of becoming an IAS officer?

Merlin: That will remain a dream. There is nobody whom I can borrow money from.

Renu: You won so many medals in tenth and twelfth. Now you are thinking of leaving studies? What's with you, Merlin?

Merlin: Oh my god! That reminds me of something. I have that gold medal I got from Sastra Sahitya Parishad for highest scores in SSLC. I will sell that.

Renu: Are you going to sell that?

Merlin: What use does it have anyway? I did not tell Amma because it will worry her and make her more ill.

Renu: Ok, I will come with you now.

Scene 6
College. A crowd of girls are waiting in a queue outside the office. Sania and Reshmi come and stand in the queue. They see Merlin who has already paid the fees and is walking towards her class.

Sania: Merlin?
Merlin: Yes, what is it, Sania?

Sania: Did you get a letter of recommendation?
Reshmi: Are you writing the exam or are you going to work in a shop?

Merlin: Why do you want to know Sania? Did your father suddenly come back from Delhi last night? I met him at the grocer’s this morning.

Sania: Yeah, he had to come back soon.
Merlin: That’s OK, Sania. Thanks for the concern.

Scene 7
Merlin’s home (Merlin, Students, Amma and Renu)
Merlin is teaching a group of students. They are singing nursery rhymes.

Merlin: Children, That’s all for today. You can go home now.
Students: Thank you teacher.

They give her money as they go and she counts them.
Merlin goes inside and talks to her mother.

Merlin: Amma, I got 3000 rupees from this month’s tuition. That’s enough for running the household expenses.

Amma: Oh Merlin. That’s more than enough. Now I can go back to work from next month.
Merlin: But the happiest news was when the Principal announced a merit scholarship for completing education yesterday. You should have seen the crowd and the applause.

Amma: I’m so happy, Merlin. You have worked hard. That’s why. Above all, you are earning from the tuitions as well. You can stop them once I get back to work. Dr. Thomas said that I was getting better and better.

Merlin: No Amma. I learned how to earn by myself, how to earn while I learn. So I’m sure that this income will make me independent and confident in the future.

Renu comes in.
Amma: Hello Renu, where were you?

Renu: I was at work, Aunty. Now seeing Merlin work so hard, I told my mother to let me go for work. So I got a job in a DTP Centre because I have learnt computer and typing.

Merlin: That’s the spirit, Renu. Are you coming with me to buy a blackboard for my students?
Renu: Oh you got your money?

Merlin: Yes and a scholarship for complete education as well. I want a board so that I can take bigger classes at home.
Renu: You are sure a brilliant girl.
Amma: Both of you are brilliant and independent as well.

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